Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson... enough already!

We've had a heat wave going on here for the past 5 days so naturally I was parked in front of the TV more than any other time.

It's been wall-to-wall Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson's death, MJ's kids, MJ's will, MJ's personal habits, MJ's childhood, MJ's trial, MJ's father, MJ's siblings ... you name it! It's been morning until night since Thursday when he reportedly died.

The whole media circus is beyond cloying. The guy was a singer. He was not a diplomat. He wasn't a revolutionary. He didn't create a social movement that brought about world peace. He wasn't Nelson Mandela or Barack Obama.

He might have been a nice guy. I don't know. At the very minimum, from what little I know, his life was a troubled one.

But he was a singer! He played and sang music!

To the best of my knowledge, he didn't create social change with his music. "Billie Jean" is not a song of social significance. Neither are the rather vacuous "Ebony and Ivory" or "Man In The Mirror". They were just pop songs. They were bouncy and fun, made for good dance music. That was it!

He was talented. Granted. But he's not an idol. He was a talented musician who went the way of many talented musicians from Jim Morrison to Janis Joplin. It was a result of self-indulgence for all of them. I'm too old to believe in "tortured artists". They had too much money, too many sycophants and no particular foundation for living.

When I was a kid, it was all about the Beatles. Young girls my age went to concerts or movies where they'd scream their lungs out. It was mass hysteria. Some of them even passed out. My parents allowed me to go to the concert at the Cow Palace in 1965. It involved an entire weekend trip. I was 13 years old. "All the other kids" in the neighborhood were going which was usually a fairly compelling argument to my parents. So they packed me up with my friend Davida and we went. Neither of us, budding hippies that we were, were impressed. I remember the crowding, the smell of pot and an evening of rather mediocre music. I also remember the screaming which seemed rather odd, given the price of the tickets. No one was listening to the music.

Even at that age, I thought the whole thing was goofy. I was a fan of Joan Baez, Barry McGuire and Peter, Paul and Mary. Their concerts were wonderful but the mania over any musician never caught me.

Maybe that's why I am not understanding what's going on now.

Michael Jackson is dead. Let the man rest in peace.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday: Magnificent Brain

Frankly, I always thought the whole notion of "positive thinking" was a load of crap.

How's that for plopping it on the table?

Sometimes I think positivity is pushed in this culture like some kind of magic tonic, that it will cure everything. It's confused with "upbeat". The two are entirely different. Being positive also does not mean "cheerful". In that respect, the whole concept has become conflated and the importance of it has been lost in the onslaught of fluff. Being positive is an overall way of life. It's not just smiling a lot and expressing cheery thoughts.

Lately, it almost seems as this message is being pounded into my head. Thoughts are things.

Dealing with my housemate's negativity has been a real challenge. Every day, it's all about her hardships and separation from others. Any mind that concentrates on hardships and differences between self and others for too long becomes only the hardships and separations it fantasizes. In the end there is nothing left but the hardships and separations ~ a good life stolen by self from self. And that is where she is now.

That was one object lesson. It's been sort of a spiritual version of "this is your brain on drugs".

I was listening to PBS and Dr. Daniel Amen who wrote "Have A Magnificent Mind At Any Age". His "12 Prescriptions for an Improved Brain" emphasized this: Concentrate on the things you love about your life more than the things you don't.

He showed some supporting documentation. There were pictures of brains. Brains when we're negative. Brains when we're positive. There was a significant difference between the two.

There are physical consequences as well as quality-of-life consequences to allowing ourselves the laziness of being negative. Dr Amen's brain scans proved that. It puts it in the venue of science rather than some blah-blah "be positive" tripe that leads a lot of people to dismiss it out of hand.

What that has brought me to is a mindfulness about how often I allow myself to complain, to awfulize, to worry and to look at worse case scenarios. Without realizing it, when we do that, we change our brain patterns that lead to these physical as well as mental consequences. In so many ways, it's just as dangerous as smoking, eating poorly or not getting any exercise.

Something to chew on.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday: Praying the Devil Back To Hell....

There is nothing noble in being superior to some other man. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self. ~Hindu proverb ...

I got an interesting comment on my last post, reminding me to send metta to the women I was upset with last week. (Was it last week? A few days ago? The time is blurring.)

Sending metta, or good thoughts ~ lovingkindness ~ to someone who has harmed us or tried to harm us is a basic part of the forgiveness process. At least for me.

Taking the comment seriously and realizing it was necessary, I sat down to do it. I sent lovingkindness to each woman, by name.

It was hard. Really hard! Not because I am still angry at them. Not out of a need to be right. Not because it felt like submission or giving up.

It was even more insidious than that.

It was because I'd relegated them to non-personhood. The particular dynamic they engaged as a means of "punishing" me was something I find so repugnant, so destructive, that I couldn't bring myself to forgive them as individuals. They became shells. It's really hard to have empathy or compassion for hollow shells. I was able to forgive in a global sense but couldn't on a person-to-person level.

Still, I sat and kept trying.

Eventually after several full minutes, I began to feel some compassion for people who are in such pain that they would take someone's confidential information, shared in trust, and turn it back ~ turning it into ammunition.

I committed to the universe that I would not do the same thing. At least I would try very hard to not do the same thing.

I began to feel empathy, knowing what it is like to feel that way from the past, to be so wounded and so angry that using anything in my arsenal to "get back" at someone seemed justified.

Our conflict was minor. In fact, it was even a bit petty. No one's life will be changed - not mine nor theirs - by the interaction we shared. However, when you look at it in the bigger picture, it does ripple outward. From stream to river to lake to ocean, it grows and grows and before we know it, nations are doing the same thing.

I sent more lovingkindness. I sent healing their way, to all of them, that the things that hurt them inside will go away, that they can see the world as something other than a nail - and that they don't have to be hammers. And I sent lovingkindness to all of us so that none of us will have to feel like hammers in a world of nails.

It was a good exercise. Even though it is difficult, willingness is a good beginning. Even though it didn't feel "real" for a while, it was still worth doing.

I wish we would all take a few minutes each day to send lovingkindness to each other - globally or individually. That alone could change the world.

Have a good Sunday!


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Getting slimed....

If I had to make a wild guess, I'd say most of us have trouble with conflict.

I know I do.

But it also makes me grow. More than I thought possible.

Here's a very, very brief summary of what happened: I told someone that we are not a good match as friends. I wished her well, told her several positive things about herself and encouraged her to stay well.

Still, there were some personality characteristics that made it impossible for us to be friends. Sometimes it's important to admit that to people instead of walking away or disappearing. In my opinion, it's closure. It's honest. It offers everyone the opportunity to wish each other well and move on.

She wrote a message back that was horrible, accusatory and negative. She accused me of being a person who is "grossly afraid of intimacy" and went on to tell me all my perceived character deficits from her perspective.

If I'd walked away for a while, I probably would have stayed walked away. It was obvious she wasn't going to wish me well and let it go.

In a momentary fit of anger, I slimed her back. I fell right into the trap. I should have known better and didn't.

Still, I learned a lesson from this. I know I have a bad temper and that is not how it should have been done. I own it. I screwed up. There is no sense of satisfaction in it. It was wrong action. Period.

The person immediately began gathering her allies, writing public messages intended to bait me into blowing again. The three of them, like circling vultures, began picking at the bones of my private information, using it as a whip to wound me. The whole thing, objectively speaking, said far more about them than it did about my wrong action.

I didn't bite again. I let it go.

Here's what I learned: I have the right to simply say "These are not the kind of people I choose to know."

When I look around, I am surrounded mostly by positive, sensitive and mature people. My personal friends, I mean. They're truly good people.

There is nothing that requires any of us to compete, overcome or win. As Marianne Williamson says, we can be right.. or we can be happy. We can walk away without losing face. In fact, I believe we gain face by choosing our battles the way they should be chosen ~ which is based on some larger principle than being annoyed or pissed off.

Even though these people tried to goad me into a reaction, I noticed that I had none. I did chuckle a bit about the fact that I was commanding so much of their energy that they would send veiled messages intended to pick at my personal scabs but beyond that, nothing. I didn't feel bad for them. I didn't feel superior to them. I didn't feel anything... except a vague sense of having gnats flying around my ears.

I'd have to give them the power to affect me in any way .. which I won't.

These are people I simply don't choose to know.

I'd rather stayed focused on the positive, the wholesome and the uplifting. If anything, this incident has taught me that I have to consciously choose that and act accordingly.

Lesson learned.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday: Remembering the things that make us happy....

Well, this week I decided to blatantly snarf Olivia's idea and post six things that make me happy right now.

Today. At this very moment.

1) I am a freak for a pretty ring. Today, I was out wandering and found a beautiful mystic topaz ring. It was free for all intents and purposes. I had an old ring I no longer like and took it to Abla Jewelers. They made an even trade.

2) My little dog, Shanti, who seems to bring me pleasure each day, no matter what's going on in the outside world. She is a very good natured being who doesn't seem to let anything get to her. She's not demanding or annoying. Ever. She just continues to provide her unconditional love, no matter what I do.

3) Saturn The Chatterbox who has been bravely carting me all over the place, even though there is still some work to be done. I especially admire the fact that she putts on, even knowing that I really want one of these:

4) The declining scale. I am losing weight at a very healthy rate and am beginning to see the shifts and changes in my body shape. It's a good reminder that we do get to choose and we can take action and see positive results. That one took a long time to learn.

5) I'm very grateful for the friends who have come into my life over the past several months, and many who have been around longer, who have a very solid understanding that relationships of all kinds should always include "thank you" and "you're welcome". They understand that giving and getting is a beautiful flow.

6) I am also happy to get a blog acknowledgement from Olivia who passed this award along to me. Those who have read here for a long time know I don't typically deal with awards. However, coming from Olivia, I will because she is one of the most balanced, mindful people I know. And also, for someone who doesn't even know me personally, she has been gracious, kind, generous and always, always a delightful conversationalist. Thank you, Olivia. When will I get to say "you're welcome"? :)

I am going to pass these along to a few people and there is another award I have in mind for others. This one is a really good fit though for these folks :)

Susan at Guilty With An Explanation

Angela at Eclectic Recovery

Angel at Little Pea

Hele at Truth Cycles

Billie at Border Explorer

Maithri at The Soaring Impulse ~ (I don't think Maithri does awards but either way, if you are not visiting this site, you are really missing out on something truly beautiful and uplifting.)


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday: Healthy Selfishness

It has only been for the past few months that I've understood on a fairly deep level that I have the right to be who I am.

Sound familiar?

It seems it is mostly women who get caught in this spiral, the belief that we should be all things to all people and even all things to all things.

While I am not caught up in the guilt spiral, I did get caught up in the belief that if I was going to be "good", I was going to be exceptionally good. That meant finding any and all possible hammers in my personal belief system and using them to beat myself up for not being "perfect" enough.

If I was going to be a good Buddhist, as an example, I should put the Dalai Lama to shame. I should be perfectly patient, perfectly serene, never state a preference, never *want* anything, especially anything from anyone else. I should never get angry, sad, frustrated and I should certainly never set a boundary on anyone else's behavior. I should never make a judgment and never turn anyone away.

It doesn't work. I doubt even the Buddha himself was quite so self-sacrificing. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, he did exactly what he wanted to do, exactly the way he wanted to do it.

The first truly selfish thing I ever did was to admit that I could no longer live the way I was in 2004 (journal entry from that time in the previous post). I used the medical system (legitimately) to get out of it. I got out of it to save my life. My life. No one else's. My life was valuable enough to do that.


And then believed it was necessary to make penance for the rest of my life for the degree of happiness I found as a result of the freedom it allowed me. I was let out of one prison but began serving a sentence in a new prison.

I'm coming to realize that happiness is the natural state, not the one we only get as an occasional reward for being lowly, self-sacrificing and living small. Happiness is something we cultivate within ourselves, something we adopt as a way of life. It is not dependent on other people or cirumstances. It is healthy selfishness, along with generosity. Generosity without happiness is martyrdom.

It is the recognition that we have the right to be ourselves while not harming others. It's the willingness to admit that we can't be all things to all people. That's not even such a noble goal after all. Happiness (contentment) is a freedom all its own. It is probably the truest freedom there is.

We are here to be happy. We are here to be content. We are here to tell the truth. We are here to choose that. And I do. I take baby steps, learning how to assimilate who I am with what I have to offer.

In case you didn't see it, there was a comment last night from Heartsinsanfrancisco which I think is worth quoting here. It really says it all.

"As Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." Our life's songs are meant to be sung, so sing yours today and for all the days when you could not. "


Friday, June 05, 2009

Revisiting the Past.....

Lately I've been clearing out a lot of old "stuff" in preparation for moving. While going through a drawer, I found this old journal entry, written on the back of a technical support call document. It was written during a work day. I wrote it three months before I was declared permanently disabled. Please understand when you read this that I was psychotically depressed at the time.

Still, it's occasionally a good idea to revisit the past, to see where we've come from and see how far we've come.

Nowadays, I find it hard to imagine I ever felt this way ~ day in and day out. What an incredible waste of precious life energy. If nothing else, it serves to make me very grateful for my life now. I haven't touched a place this dark in 4-5 years now.

Come back Sunday for my "Sacred Life Sunday" response to this entry.



Today has been an exceptionally hard day. It has taken everything I have to stay here ~ to look around me at all these vacant faces. It shouldn't be any surprise. These are people who have had the souls sucked out of them by erosion more than cataclysm. It's as though they've accepted their fate and sleepwalk through their days, accepting the worst of the world ~ drudgery.

It scares me to be around this. I am afraid of becoming one of them. It's said that in Haiti, they feed people oil from a particular breed of fish. I can't recall the name of the fish but it's used in a form of voodoo. The result is a type of brain damage that doesn't take away the ability to function. It just wipes out the soul and the spirit. They're called "zombies".

I actually called A**** B***** and begged him to get me back to B (former workplace). I never realized I could miss anything so much. In the absence of being able to go back to Barclays, I told him to send me to Mars or shoot me. I don't particularly care which. I don't care. I can't do this anymore.

I look around me here and realize I am looking at Hell. Not the ninth rung ~ not a Chinese sweatshop or a Russian gulag. No, this has that uniquely American flavor ~ the hell of being the underclass - the proletariat - those without a voice - those who give away their humanity for a few sheckles and some bread. The living dead.

I refuse to justify this by saying they "chose" it or are consenting to it with any autonomy. Some of them don't know any better and the others have acquiesced. Again, that uniquely American form of torture. No bamboo shoots under the toenails - just a slow descent into the black hole of despair.

Neitzsche ain't got nothin' on this form of soul death. While it is so blatant elsewhere, it is the subtlety - the insideousness - that makes it so effective.

My body is okay. It's battered and bruised but probably good for another twenty years or so. It is my mind that has disabled me. My refusal to forfeit my spirit - my determination to thwart them, my unwillingness to sink into non-personhood. The longer I am exposed to the elements, the more my spirit fights and the more it shatters.

I nearly cried from the futility, my inability to abort this process. It's seemingly beyond my control. My efforts mean nothing. It is meant to be. I need to accept that I can simply no longer do this and save myself.